"There's not a human being alive on the planet that is ever going to see an ocean free of plastic."
That was the sobering message delivered by founding trustee of Sea Cleaners Trust Hayden Smith to Whangārei Boys' High School's Carruth House boarders.
"We need every single one of you to take that leadership role for that problem," Smith said. "For your children and you children's children, that's what this work is about."
Smith also spoke about the birds and marine animals that need help.
He, along with a group made up of others involved in Sea Cleaners and youth from Hawaii, spoke to the 55 students yesterday about the work they do and encouraged them all to do their bit to help save the planet.
Among the group were two former Carruth House boarders.
One of those was 18-year-old Philippe Ebert who admits he "got into a bit of trouble" after leaving the school and ended up working with Sea Cleaners as court-ordered community work.
"Hayden ended up offering me a job if I wanted to stay," Ebert said. "It was cool to do something you could do and feel good about at the end of the day."
He works on the Northland Sea Cleaners boat which is based out of Opua and covers from Cape Reinga to Warkworth.
Smith said Ebert would get stuck in and do the work, which is why he offered him the job.
The other former boarder was 15-year-old Te Ariki Waipouri who was part of a group of New Zealand youth ambassadors who travelled to Hawaii last year.
He said it was "quite shocking" to see how much rubbish was there.
This week has been the return leg with the help of Hawaiian Airlines. The Hawaiian youth ambassadors landed in New Zealand last weekend.
They spent the first few days in Auckland at various events, schools and clean-ups before heading north on Wednesday to show the Hawaiian youth the extent of the work they are doing.
The group were part of a clean-up at Whangārei Heads on Wednesday. Smith said they launched at Marsden Cove and headed to uninhabited areas along the Whangārei Heads coastline.
Then they stayed at Takahiwai Marae on Wednesday night before visiting WBHS.
One of the Hawaiian youth, Kamohaiki Jacobs, 18, said it had been crazy to see how similar Hawaii and New Zealand were - both culturally and that they were facing the same problems with debris in the ocean.
"It was an eye opener to see it's not just in my home, it's not just in New Zealand, it's everywhere connected to the ocean."
Whangārei Boys' High deputy head boy Jacob Kennedy said he was aware of the plastic problem because he was a free diver.
"It was good to see we've got a way of cleaning it up, it's not just sitting on beaches. There's something you can get behind and support."